A judge in Little Rock, Ark., has granted class status in a federal lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in which the company is accused of discriminating against black applicants for jobs driving Wal-Mart trucks.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson Jr. said drivers at Wal-Mart were recruited largely through word-of-mouth and applicants would be screened by a committee of drivers. The judge noted none of the committees at Wal-Mart’s various hiring sites had a majority of African Americans and some had no blacks, despite a company rule that the panels be 50 percent diverse.
The ruling opens the class to all black applicants in the continental U.S. who were turned down for Wal-Mart trucking jobs since Sept. 22, 2001, and all blacks who contend they were prevented from applying due to Wal-Mart practices.
Any plaintiffs seeking punitive damages would have to do so in a separate law suit after the class action is tried, the ruling said.
Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said the company may fight Wilson’s ruling and says the allegation of discrimination is wrong.
“We disagree with the district court’s decision and are considering an appeal. We believe that the case will be resolved in Wal-Mart’s favor once the merits of the case are addressed. It’s important to remember, the only question the district court decided concerned class-action status. This has nothing to do with the merits of the case or whether the allegations are true,” Simley said.
Plaintiff attorney Hank Bates of Little Rock said the class would include fewer than 10,000 people.
Bentonville-based Wal-Mart has about 8,000 over-the-road truck drivers.
According to Wilson’s ruling, the American Trucking Association found that 15 percent of truckers were black from Jan. 1, 2000, through Sept. 29, 2005. In the same period, 4 percent to 6 percent of Wal-Mart truckers were black.
Other plaintiff lawyers include the John W. Walker and Welch & Kitchens law firms.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com
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